Category Archives: Buddhism
The Dhammapada is probably the most popular piece of scripture among Buddhists, and the most widely translated. The name literally means “The Way of the Dharma”. Dharma, a Sanskrit word that is very complex to translate, in the Buddhist context most frequently means “the body of teachings given by the Buddha”. More broadly, it can refer to the entire Buddhist relgion (more precisely designated as Buddhadharma). As Christian contexts will sometimes refer to “the Faith” in the sense of “the Christian religion”, “the Dharma” can likewise be construed as a synonym for “Buddhism”. Thus “Dhammapada”–the Way of the Dharma–essentially means “the way of Buddhism” or “the way of the Buddhist religion”.
A slight pet peeve, by the way. Americans tend to assume, incorrectly, that “a” is pronounced as the “a” in “father”–ahhh–in all foreign languages. The letter अ in both Sanskrit and Pali is transliterated as “a”, and is pronounced not as “ahhh” but like the “u” in “but” or the last “a” in “America”. The letter आ, transliterated as “ā”, is properly pronounced “ahh”. I’m not always consistent about using all the proper diacritics, but all the a’s in “Dhammapada” are short. Thus, the proper pronunciation of it is something like “dum-muh-pud-uh”, accent on the first syllable. Likewise “dharma” and “karma” ought to be “duhr-muh” and “kuhr-muh”. I always pronounce “dharma” correctly (though very few Americans do), but “karma” is so much assimilated that I pronounce it “kahhr-muh”, since the correct pronunciation would sound odd and confuse people. Sigh.
In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.
–Quoted in Engaged Buddhist Reader: Ten Years of Engaged Buddhist Publishing (1996) by Arnold Kotler, p. 106
Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea. It is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment. No one can take it away from you. Other people can occupy your country, they can even put you in prison, but they cannot take away your true home and your freedom.
–”Returning Home”, Shambhala Sun (March 2006)
Children understand very well that in each woman, in each man, in each child, there is capacity of waking up, of understanding, and of loving. Many children have told me that they cannot show me anyone who does not have this capacity. Some people allow it to develop, and some do not, but everyone has it. This capacity of waking up, of being aware of what is going on in your feelings, in your body, in your perceptions, in the world, is called Buddha nature, the capacity of understanding and loving. Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.
–Being Peace (2005)
Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.
He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own-being they were empty.
Here, O Sariputra,
form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form ;
emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form,
the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness.
Here, O Sariputra,
all dharmas are marked with emptiness ;
they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.
Therefore, O Sariputra,
in emptiness there is no form nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness ;
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind ; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind ; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to :
No mind-consciousness element ; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to : There is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path.
There is no cognition, no attainment and no non-attainment.
Therefore, O Sariputra,
it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble,
he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.
All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.
Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth — for what could go wrong ? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this :
Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.
( Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail !)
This completes the Heart of perfect Wisdom.
–translated by Edward Conze
This is tweaked very slightly in that I put in the version of the mantra with all the correct diacritics, which Conze left out to make things typographically easier (that was the pre-computer days, you know).
This is actually relevant to some points I’m going to make in upcoming posts, believe it or not. Meanwhile, it’s one of my favorite Buddhist scriptures, and I hope you enjoy it, too.
Avalokita–the bodhisattva of infinite compassion.
Bodhisattva–a being that is highly advanced on the path to enlightenment but has decided to postpone enlightenment to aid the suffering beings of the world. Broadly equivalent to a saint or a demi-god.
Heap–translation of the Sanskrit skandha, often translated “aggregate”; the characteristic properties of which sentient beings are formed: form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
Dharma–in this context, “characteristic” or “property”.
Prajñāpāramitā–the perfection of transcendent wisdom.
Despite the fact that I’m a straight male, the Indigo Girls are one of my all-time favorite bands, and this is one of their better songs.
Do not go by revelation;
Do not go by tradition;
Do not go by hearsay;
Do not go on the authority of sacred texts;
Do not go on the grounds of pure logic;
Do not go by a view that seems rational;
Do not go by reflecting on mere appearances;
Do not go along with a considered view because you agree with it;
Do not go along on the grounds that the person is competent;
Do not go along because “the recluse is our teacher.”
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: These things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them…
Kalamas, when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having undertaken them, abide in them.
–Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, Kalama Sutta - Angutarra Nikaya 3.65